Thursday, March 24, 2011

Creative Artists and Creative Entrepreneurs

In The Rise of the Creative Class, Richard Florida argues that there is a positive correlation between the presence of "bohemians" -- literary and artistic types -- and the economic growth associated with the creative class, including programmers and inventors. The reason for this is that in places where such people congregate -- in particular cities, in particular locations in those cities -- one gets ideas generated by creative people talking about their work, regardless of that work.

Thus, Florida argues that the very presence of writers and artists contributes to economic creativity. It should not be too much of a stretch to argue that it see that this is equally applicable to creative power of the products of those artists and writers. How might literature positively stimulate ideas that lead to economic innovations? Even if it but creates an imaginative space, it may be there is a strong benefit to literature -- and the more complex, challenging, and mentally liberating, the better. This of course would be harder to measure than saying that X story resulted in Bob Smith inventing Y, but it is probably closer to the truth of what art and literature does for one's creativity. I certainly know it to be true that when I dabbled in painting for a while, it stimulated my literary creativity. Creativity seems to generate creativity. It is a positive sum game. More, it is a positive feedback loop.


  1. This sounds very similar to what Krugman has written about geography and trade - you might be interested. He really did a lot to take a trade theory that was very much Ricardian, and very much interested in applying comparative advantage to endowments and production technology with diminishing returns and drag it back to its foundations in Adam Smith where concentrated populations afforded opportunities for specialization that generated innovation and increasing returns. He's not the only one to emphasize this, of course, but he's the dominant figure in bringing trade theory back that way and he's also been important in higlighting what you do here - the role of cities in this process.

  2. You might be interested in this, as well, which recently came out:

    Florida has a paper in there.

  3. Thanks for directing me to that issue. It looks great, and it will help me with my spatial economics paper. Which is of course why I'm reading Florida in the first place. The way I read, though, I think not only about the paper I'm working on, but how what I'm reading applies to literary analysis as well.

    I have an increasing number of books by Krugman - precisely because of my spatial economics project. He's quite good in his specialty. I have a few quibbles with it, but overall I liked his book "The Self-Organizing Economy." If you haven't read it, you should.

  4. Yep - The Self Organizing Economy was what introduced me to the idea of emergent order.

  5. It was the other way around for me. I had read extensively on self-organization and emergence, and was looking for books on economics that made use of that idea. Nice introduction to the concepts of spatial economics. At the same time, while he uses the models and is clearly fascinated by the ideas, he doesn't seem to really understand what is going on. An example of this is his complaint that self-organization results in self-segregation. If he really understood the nature of self-organizing processes, he would understand that modularity is a necessary condition of self-organization. He fortunately doesn't make much out of it other than to observe that self-organization does not equal good. But good is certainly subjective in this case. At the very least, things are quite complex when it comes to self-segregation. Personally, I like reading people who are willing to think through such things, even in error, as it stimulates more thought than one who one either completely agrees or completely disagrees with.

  6. What about how authors might function as entrepreneurs within the 'ideas market' themselves? I am looking at the way an author presents a certain conception/philosophy (in the very process of deciding what to represent, and how to represent it) and how these ideas shape the 'cultural climate' of a particular time/place. [Think back to papers like Hayek's, 'The Intellectuals and Socialism'] I imagine the Author as a producer/entrepreneur who is "selling" (whether consciously or not) a particular view of the world. We can imagine the various aspects of the text (style, use of characterization, etc) as the "methods of production", which will inevitably determine the ability for the text ("product") to impact the "cultural market" (via the consumers, the readers).

    In relation to Austrian Economics, I have found the Austrian view of entrepreneurial action (creating knowledge, etc) incredibly enlightening, and have used the concepts of spontaneous order, the knowledge problem, and limited rationality a lot in my exploration.

    Can't go into it too much here, but it's definitely an interesting exploration!

  7. Some excellent points. This is a good way of thinking of these things. May I suggest, though, a slightly different way that really only modifies what you say here but slightly.

    If we consider literary production to be a spontaneous order, does it not also make sense that one would have a philosophical order as well? The philosophical order would be the realm in which the ideas market per se is at work, and would include a wide variety of thinkers, not just philosophers qua philosophers, but also many economists, scientists working on theory development, etc., as well. The literary writer who is doing what you are saying (and to some degree, they perhaps all are) would be working in the overlap between the spontaneous order of literature and that of philosophy -- in the "ecotone" of the two. I may have to think more on this.

    It sounds like you might be a good addition here. Send me your email if you'd like to be a regular contributor, and you can share all of your explorations at length. :-)

  8. First to clarify - where people like Paul Cantor have been looking a lot at the spontaneous order within the production process of individual texts I have been looking more at individual texts as part of a larger cultural spontaneous order. If I am understanding correctly, I think that the philosophical order you are talking about is the same idea of this larger cultural order. If I am understanding this correctly, then I would definitely agree that this cultural order is the "sum" of the potentially infinite contributions of authors, philosophers, scientists, economists, etc - really that entire class of "intellectuals" who are presenting their ideas to society.

    I have connected to Allen after seeing his interview with the Mises Institute but I am definitely interested in becoming more active in the movement connecting Austrian Econ and Literature. I am an undergraduate at Queen Mary, University of London at the moment and hoping to write my ideas for my dissertation. I'm currently still in the process of getting my proposal approved but things are looking pretty good so far. It would be really helpful to share and get as much feedback as possible! I think this is an incredibly important movement within literature as I have a lot of beef with the forms of literary criticism I have been taught!

    My email is, please keep in touch!

  9. If you haven't read it, read my essay on the spontaneous orders of the arts. The link is on the upper right hand corner. I think you will like it.

    I think the details of the cultural spontaneous orders -- and the overall cultural spontaneous order -- needs to be worked out. It's something that hasn't really been done. Butos and McQuade have written about science as a spontaneous order, but they haven't, in what I have read by them at least, addressed the interactions between scientific theory and the broader philosophical order (there is also a narrower philosophical order -- and one would probably want to distinguish between the two).

    This cultural work on spontaneous order theory is practically untouched. These are very exciting developments!